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Mexico & Costa Rica to build on their leading position in Latin America

Miravalles geothermal plant and solar plant (source: ciee.org)
Alexander Richter 5 May 2016

Mexico and Costa Rica aim to build on their leading positions in geothermal energy utilisation in Latin America, despite local challenges related to environmental concerns and some local opposition.

The countries of Mexico and Costa Rica aim to build on their position as Latin America’s leading producers of geothermal power, so reported by regional news.

Today, Hydropower represents about 55% of electricity generation in Latin America and fossil fuels around 40%, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

At present, geothermal makes up only 5 percent of installed power capacity in Central America, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

But this could change, given growing political interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the goal adopted by governments in the new Paris climate change agreement to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

Harnessing this energy from deep under their own territories could prove a cost-effective way to power the economies of Mexico and Central American states from a domestic source, experts say.

“One of the main benefits is that countries can … become independent from the fluctuations of foreign markets,” said Emilia Rodríguez, a Costa Rican lawyer specializing in renewables. “It also supplies the cleanest and greenest energy.”

Geothermal has the smallest greenhouse gas footprint per kilowatt of any power generation technology, according to the Geothermal Energy Association, an association of U.S. companies developing geothermal resources worldwide.

There remain though challenges. In Costa Rica, current law forbids the exploration for geothermal resources inside national parks and protected areas, which essentially hampers development with most of the country’s resources being located in parks and protected forests.

In Mexico a new law from 2014, allows private investment into the energy market and could push the share of geothermal in the power generation mix from today 2% to up to 10%,. But environmental groups are opposing development and concerns over how licensing for geothermal development will fair with environmental protection and human rights, will be an ongoing topic in Mexico.

Source: VOA News